Reston man's antics were just not cricket

It's a practical joke that may appeal to many Scotsmen - having the England cricket team arrested as they try to return home from abroad.

By The Newsroom
Tuesday, 16th February 2016, 4:05 pm
Updated Tuesday, 16th February 2016, 4:09 pm
James Logan victorian portrait
James Logan victorian portrait

Back at the turn of the last century, a Reston man not only managed that, he was also integral to a South African cricket team touring Britain - at the height of the Boer War.

Now lecturer and historian Dr Dean Allen will be retelling the life story of James Douglas Logan when he gives a talk to Duns Historical Society on Wednesday, February 24.

James Douglas Logan, described by the controversial Cecil Rhodes as the only “creator” in South Africa besides Rhodes himself, was born in Reston in 1857.

He left Berwickshire for South Africa at the age of nineteen, where he made a fortune in the nascent diamond trade.

Based upon years of research in South Africa and the United Kingdom, and using original archive material (including articles from the Berwickshire News archives and many unseen photographs) Dr Allen’s talk is based upon his new book , Empire, War and Cricket in South Africa, exploring how Logan made his fortune in late nineteenth century South Africa through business, politics and a high profile association with the British Empire’s favourite sport – cricket.

Wildly successful, Logan even became known as the ‘Laird of Matjiesfontein’, after the South African town he developed. This famous town is today a national heritage site and a popular tourist destination for South African and international visitors.

Dr Allen’s talk will explore how Matjiesfontein was created and how James Logan developed this little town in the Karoo (South Africa’s large semi-desert region) into a renowned health resort attracting the rich and famous of the late nineteenth century.

It also hosted some of the very first international cricket games, and the talk will also explain how James Logan was instrumental in developing the game of cricket in South Africa and examine the controversial but little-known 1901 South African cricket tour to England – a venture funded by Logan himself.

Luminaries including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, took to the press, saying that the nation should have other things on its mind while there was a war to be fought.

Matjiesfontein’s pivotal role in that war is explored alongside James Logan’s exploits during this time.

These include lending money to the visiting England team, and when they were slow in paying him back, he had the manager and captain arrested as they were ready to sail home. He was eventually awarded £857, and grew so famous he was a guest at the coronation of King Edward VII.